Net Mentors - A Joint Effort: Sams Valley Elementary, Crater High School, and US West Communications
In the late 70's the hottest thing going was the Commodore 64 computer. One of the first "personal" computers, it gave those with enough cash to afford one the ability to, well . . . type. Although an important step in the development of the PC, historically it is to computing what short wave radio is to wireless cable broadcasts of color television in Dolby Stereo.
Although for most of the last decade the Sams Valley staff has managed to make use of these pieced-together computer cast-offs, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the community, parents, and staff, the school now boasts one of the finest elementary computer labs in Oregon. The "new" lab currently consists of twelve high-level Macintosh work stations linked
directly to the Internet via a dedicated 56k data line, as well as a flatbed scanner, a
networked printer, and an LTV unit--but it's still growing. As many as ten additional
machines are to be added soon, and several "behind the scenes" improvements are also in the
While the technology in itself is impressive, it is fundamentally useless unless it can be used to improve student learning in such subjects as reading, writing, and math. Rather than allow the pursuit of technology to engross them, the SVE staff has recognized that technology is merely a tool by which to teach the traditional curriculum. This is the driving force behind SVE's technology development. For example, teachers have received extensive in-service training in the use of technology to teach math and science through an Eisenhower grant. The Carpenter Foundation provided funds for SVE's Virtual Field Trip to Egypt project, an integrated technology-based project designed to teach history and social studies. And US West
Communications dedicated funds for SVE's Net-mentors Writing Project, the school's "flagship" technology-based program.
Net-mentors has been designed to improve writing and communication in all subjects by
networking elementary writers with high school "mentors." As they go through the writing
process, SVE students type drafts of their work on computers. Students then send these
drafts via e-mail to a pre-determined group of students at Crater High School. These high
school "editors" then reinforce their own writing skills by inserting cues and comments which
the younger students use when revising.
Currently eighteen high school students from Steve Baird's English class at Crater High
School are mentoring young writers in five SVE classrooms. As interest grows (and all the
bugs are exterminated), the project will expand to include additional classrooms, as well as
students at the middle school level.
The staff still makes use of those old Commodores, but SVE's Mac lab means that SVE
students won't be stuck in the 70's. And through programs like Net-mentors, they'll not only
be technologically-advanced, but better writers, mathematicians, and historians as well.